More than 293,000 people have registered for the NZ Covid Tracer app since it was released on Tuesday night, the Ministry of Health said today.
But some remain critical of elements of the app and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) parallel Business Connect service, which businesses can use to create QR codes posters for Covid Tracer app check-ins.
The health ministry said this afternoon that business have generated 10,692 QR codes but that figure is in the context of MBIE approaching about 800,000 to use the new Business Connect service.
"The insistence of the government that business owners register with Business Connect before they can download the poster is patently absurd," Window Treatments chief financial officer Keith Shaw told the Herald.
Shaw also criticised the requirement to logon to the government's RealMe service. He did happen to have one, but it didn't help.
"I'm an authorised officer of our company, with an existing RealMe account, but I can't register as it must be the business owner," Shaw said.
"I don't understand why the government is insisting on this. Do they not trust businesses to download the QR poster for their own business? Do they think that businesses will run a scam and print QR posters for other businesses? I just don't get it."
Shaw added: "For businesses to get on board, it has to be a simple process to generate and download their QR posters. It should be as easy as printing off a Certificate of Incorporation from the Companies Office website.
"Unless this is fixed quickly it will be an epic fail and the Government - who has done an outstanding job to date - will look like utter fools."
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Business Connect also drew criticism from Jason Danner, co-founder of the Auckland-based Aerorock, a cloud computing consultancy for small business.
Danner posted a walkthrough of the Business Connect process. He was able to create a QR code poster, but was surprised he had to wade through 12 screens to do so, including joining Business Connect, entering his NZ Business Number (NZBN) and validating with a RealMe account. He said he was able to grapple through it as a tech-savvy consultant, but thought there was plenty to trip up others.
Hinders transtasman bubble
Australian academic Mahmoud Elkhodr criticised the requirement for a NZBN because it meant Australian companies couldn't print QR codes for visiting Kiwis, which will hinder attempts to create a transtasman travel bubble.
Elkhodr also noted that the NZ Covid Tracer app can't automatically upload your movement details to health authorities. And it lacks Bluetooth tracking for recording who you've been close to rather than the places you've check into. The lack of both features puts us out of sync with Australia - although both are due to be added to the NZ Covid Tracer app, possibly as soon as next month.
MBIE spokesman Michael Docherty responded: "The reason there is a registration process is to ensure there is high integrity and appropriate privacy safeguards, based on international standards for contact tracing. As NZBNs and their associated locations are created using Global Location Numbers (GLNs) through GS1, it meets this requirement.
"Also, most company addresses are for legal purposes and often may not be their physical location, and some businesses will have multiple addresses/premises. Business Connect allows the creation of as many sub-numbered GLN locations that a business might need, and links that to their number on the NZBN register. These GLN locations allows Business Connect to generate as many unique QR posters as a business requires.
"Regarding NZBN authority, MBIE is encouraging each business to identify who has this in the first instance before registering for the posters."
Docherty added that of the 2600 registrations for posters MBIE received on the first day of the app going live, only 5 per cent required additional support.
That figure would not include those like Shaw, who just gave up.
Need to post with Amazon in Sydney
The Ministry of Health also responded to a Herald comment piece that criticised the NZ Covid Tracer app for partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Sydney - choosing the Jeff Bezos' multinational during a time of buy-local campaigns.
"AWS is part of an all-of-government cloud services agreement that was formed in 2017 following a robust procurement process. AWS services and infrastructure were reviewed as part of the procurement process and are regularly tested against third-party assurance frameworks."
But although it's true an all-of-government contract is in place for AWS, that does not mean government agencies are obliged to use Amazon. Panels of approved suppliers (including approved pricing) give options - such as the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud computing services panel that includes home-grown AWS rivals Datacom and Revera (owned by Spark), as well as IBM, which at least operates a data centre on NZ shores (AWS' closest server farm is in Sydney).
Some in the tech community defended the ministry's choice of AWS on social media, saying only Amazon's service had the chops to deliver, and at speed.
The Herald put their comments to buy-local ginger group, NZRise, which pointed out that PaperKite's Rippl - which has emerged as one of the most popular check-in apps actually being used by punters - has committed to using local hosting via Catalyst Cloud, which has previously bragged it can go toe-to-toe with AWS on pricing, as well as providing local jobs and paying its taxes.
PaperKite technical director Rob Holmes waded into the controversy on Twitter, posting:
"Loving working with the serious propeller heads from @catalyst_cloud to ensure all @Rippl_NZ data stays in Aotearoa."